There seems to be a lot of destruction happening in the world with the recent hurricanes and the fires in California. Even though these haven’t physically affected our area, they do affect us.
On October 8, fires sparked and over the course of a few weeks, destroyed Northern California. These fires have caused fatalities, evacuations, and severe damage to homes and businesses. California is a leading area for wine and because of the fires, people not only lost their homes but their businesses too. What matters most is that these people are safe. As of October 20, there were 11 wineries that have been destroyed or severely damaged. While most of the fires are at least 80% contained at this point, the damage done to some 210,000 acres of land is going to take a while to build back up.
The Tubbs fire path, which was one of the largest fires- along with Atlas Peak fire, is said to have destroyed eight vineyards, estimating a total of 90 acres of vines. Robert Michael Mondavi Jr., of Michael Mondavi Family Estate, said that one of his vineyards was scorched by flames and the fruit was lost.
"Our organic Atlas Peak vineyard had 95 percent burn-through,” he told Wine Spectator via email. “We don’t use herbicides, we mow. So the stubble burned, causing damage to end posts and irrigation lines. A few spots had no burn and we tried crushing those grapes. However, it released so much aroma of smoke we had to stop. This resulted in 100 percent crop loss from Animo for the 2017 vintage." -Wine Spectator
When the fires began, the vineyard was safe and they tried to harvest the fruit as fast as they could, but within 20 minutes, the wind had shifted and it was no longer safe.
“At least 11 wineries have been confirmed significantly or totally damaged—six in Napa, including Patland Vineyards, Roy Estate, Signorello Estate, VinRoc, Sill Family and White Rock Vineyards; Sonoma's Paradise Ridge Vineyards and Helena View Johnston and Mendocino's Oster, Frey Vineyards and Backbone Vineyard & Winery.” -Wine Spectator
Our first and foremost concern is the people of this area. Below is a list of ways you can help.
- Donations to the Red Cross are always appreciated. They have provided shelter for almost 2,000 people affected by the fires in California.
- Make a donation to The Napa Valley Community Foundation, a group that is working together with other foundations, local governments and other leaders in the nonprofit sector to assess needs and put a plan in action to rebuild the area.
- Kathryn and Craig Hall, of Hall winery, are matching donations dollar-for-dollar (up to 100,000) to Redwood Credit Union Community Fund which is helping to raise money for the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.
- Participating wineries in Paso Robles are donating $1 per bottle of wine sold through the end of October to the following charities helping those affected:
• Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund
• Community Foundation of Sonoma County’s Resilience Fund
• Community Foundation of Mendocino County
- Flying Goat winery in Santa Barbara is donating $10 for every bottle of Pinot Noir Salisbury Vineyard 2011 ($38) sold, through Oct. 31, to the Direct Relief fund. You can purchase the wine on their website.
We can't help but think about the future of some of the wineries. The destruction of 11 wineries seems like a small number when you think of the entire Napa and Sonoma area. We know that many owners and wine makers will be deeply affected and wineries possibly ruined because of the fires. This year's harvest at most vineyards was an early one, which is a bit of good news because that means most varietals are already in tanks and will be fine. But the one grape left on the vine a little while longer is the staple varietal of this area, Cabernet Sauvignon. If the vine was not burned, the smoke in the area has affected the grape. There are some methods that wineries will use to soften the smoke in these grapes, but some might be too far gone. Greg Kitchens, Napa native and director of winemaking for Don Sebastiani & Sons, whose properties in both Napa and Sonoma were fortunately spared, thinks that there is no reason to worry about the wines from this area. Some places will have setbacks if the vines have been completely destroyed and have to be replanted, but it will not make these areas lose their status or make their wines unworthy of being drunk in the future.
The best thing that we can do for this area going forward is to support it. Buy their wines, plan a trip, and help this economy get back on their feet!